But revisit even the most successful dieter’s story later and often some or all of the pounds have piled back on.
I'm one of those people. Shortly before I had my children I'd lost four stone at Weight Watchers. Since having them, it's all gone back on, plus some more. Two years ago I lost two stone quite quickly through "better" eating and going to the gym - which I love once I get there.
Once you have lost weight – whether it’s a little or a lot - it is all too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. I got stuck in a diet/binge/feel bad cycle and wrote last year about binge eating as well as writing for One in Four magazine about a relationship between obesity and depression.
Psychologist Dr Mike Green, from
He says that often people who have had a more ‘chaotic’ rather than ‘routine’ approach to eating can struggle to achieve or maintain weight loss.
“It’s important to regularise eating patterns. This certainly can’t be addressed by a quick fix approach,” says Dr Green.
“You are seeking to address attitudes to food built up through habitual eating habits and to lose weight, you need to suppress hunger or the feeling that you are hungry.
“In actual fact, research has shown that for dieters, the reason they eat often has little to do with biological hunger, so they have to tackle their eating patterns.
“If they fail to do this, as soon as they eat ‘normally’ again, the weight will go back on.”
Nutritionist Lyndel Costain adds: “Some people find it harder. Genetic influences, learned eating and exercise habits, including using of food to cope with comfort, stress or emotions while growing up, all play a part.
“People who have struggled with their weight are more prone to the dangers of 'all or nothing' thinking - if they lapse or eat a 'bad' food, have a blow-out or miss the gym a few times, they slip into into negative self-talk where they tell themselves they have blown it as they always do or they are hopeless and may as well give up.
“Recognising and turning this around is the key to success.
“Following an intense weight loss programme where there is rigid restraint, the risk of “all or nothing thinking” is greatly increased.
“That's why fad diets usually fail – they are too extreme to keep up. When 'broken,' the person feels a failure and gives up, when the fad diet was the failure, not them.”
Lyndel adds that research shows that while people may lose weight using different approaches, there are some common habits for long term weight loss success.
Thoughts, behaviour and mindset are key, she says, as are a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
“Most people who want to lose weight know what to do, adds Lyndel.
“But more often than not something keeps stopping them from keeping up healthier habits. When the next diet comes along with its tempting promises, or there’s the need to lose weight for a specific reason, it’s easy to jump on board.
“But the question to ask is if your chosen approach will really help you to recognise and change the thoughts and behaviour that have stopped you losing, then keeping weight off, in the past.”
Leading slimming organisations advise on keeping the weight off, by adapting their programmes long-term. The days of encouraging people to lose as much weight as possible, as quickly as possible are long gone.
A Slimming World spokeswoman says members are encouraged to find the motivation, confidence and support they need in order to make healthy and highly effective lifestyle changes for life.
Group support is also seen as a key element of people’s success with Weight Watchers.
Don’t forget that at these groups, the leader has successfully lost and kept off weight with the particular organisation.
A Weight Watchers’ rep dds: “We encourage small achievable changes to physical activity levels which can then be built upon to build up to a regular exercise regime – whether that’s walking a bit further each week, taking fitness classes, or going to the gym. So again, it’s much more likely to be followed long-term if it is something you enjoy doing.”
At Rosemary Conley, exercise is incorporated into the weekly meetings.
According to Lyndel, key elements of success are to:
• Believe that you can control your weight and the changes involved are really worth it
• Stay realistic and value what you have achieved rather than dwell on a weight you ‘dream’ of being
• Be more active – plan ways to fit activity into your daily life – aim for an hour of walking daily
• Plan ahead for regular meals and snacks, starting with breakfast
• Choose a balanced, low-fat diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
• Watch portion size and limit fast food
• Sit down to eat and take time over meals, paying attention to what you are eating
• Have a flexible approach – plan in and enjoy some favourite foods without guilt
• Recognise and address ‘all or nothing’ thinking and other negative ‘self-talk’
• Keep making conscious choices
• Learn to confront problems rather than eat, drink, sleep or wish they would go away
• Enlist ongoing help and support from family, friends, professionals or websites
• Regularly (at least once a week but not more than once daily) check your weight.
• Take action before your weight increases by more than 2kg
She remains optimistic that anyone – whatever their past eating habits - can overcome the barriers to maintaining weight loss.
She says: “The good news is that with the right skills, mindset, and support, a healthier weight can still be achieved.”
So, over the last week
So, over the last weekI've tried again to take small steps to improve my diet and health. I have aimed to:
- Reduce the amount of fast food/takeaways I buy - I haven't had any.
- Drink more water
- Eat more fish
- Have five servings of fruit/veg a day
I've lost half a stone.
I don't want that yo-yo to go back up.I'd also love to take more exercise but my confidence isn't there yet.
At the moment, I'm feeling happy and very motivated. Here's hoping I can enjoy the next month as much. I went to see Lyndel a couple of years back and she told me:
* Food is not 'good' or 'bad'.
* I am not 'bad' for getting fat. The way I eat is not 'disgusting'.
* I am not a failure for putting on weight after leaving a slimming club.
* I do not lack 'willpower'
* I should stop beating myself up about getting fat
* The way I eat, when I eat and how much I eat, is learned behaviour.
* I CAN EAT WHAT I WANT, WHEN I WANT (Yes I am shouting.)
* Hearing and starting to grasp these things, at the age of gone 40,made me cry.
And good luck Michelle! I know how you feel. x